EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate is closing a deal to distribute The Commuter, a suspense-thriller that Liam Neeson will star in, as well as John Le Carre adaptation Our Kind Of Traitor. Both deals are for U.S. rights and are said to be among a handful of films that Lionsgate and Studiocanal are in talks on for U.S. distribution at the AFM.

Our Kind Of Traitor is based on the le Carre novel about a couple caught between the Russian mob and the British Secret Service. It stars Ewan McGregor, Naomie Harris and Stellan Skarsgard and was directed by Susanna White.

Studiocanal and Lionsgate last partnered in 2010 on distributing The Last Exorcism in the U.S. That horror film did very well at the global box office with $67.7M on a very small budget with 60% of the film’s gross coming from the U.S. market. This deal also continues what is described as “a multi-faceted relationship” between Lionsgate and StudioCanal which includes their distribution of Lionsgate films in Germany, Lionsgate’s distribution of StudioCanal library in North America and the Elevation Sales home entertainment joint venture that they both operate in the UK.

The first of the new films that Lionsgate will distribute — The Commuter — came together last just month. It was written by Byron Willinger and Phil de Blasi, with Studiocanal financing, and The Picture Company’s Andrew Rona and Alex Heineman producing with StudioCanal. The producers previously teamed with Neeson on the thrillers Non-Stop and Unknown. They will set a director shortly.

The Commuter plans to shoot in New York in the spring with Neeson portraying a businessman on his daily commute home who unwittingly gets caught up in a criminal conspiracy. It threatens not only his life but the lives of those around him.
Neeson just wrapped the Martin Scorsese-directed Silence for Paramount. The Commuter marks the first production start for The Picture Company, launched less then a year ago by former Silver Pictures execs Rona and Heineman with backing from StudioCanal. They’re also percolating Escape From New York at Fox, Robin Hood at Disney and The Tracking Of A Russian Spy and a reinvention of Don’t Look Now for StudioCanal.
Our Kind Of Traitor is produced by The Ink Factory and Potboiler Productions. Hossein Amini adapted the script.